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16) Best Way To Handle TE Playing Time?


(Editor's Note: Over the next month, the staff of is looking to answer the 20 biggest questions facing the team heading into 2021. Today, we're going to examine the state of the tight end depth chart.)

FRISCO, Texas – A perceived weakness turned into a perceived strength quite quickly.

It wasn't long ago that tight end looked like a problem spot for the Cowboys in the wake of Jason Witten's retirement. Heading into this season, though, a lot of people are curious how they'll manage to find playing time for both of their talented tight ends.

Blake Jarwin was one of the most exciting prospects on the roster in 2020, having signed a lucrative contract extension during the spring. He unfortunately tore his ACL just one quarter into the season, and Dalton Schultz filled his shoes admirably.

With both players expected healthy and ready for the start of training camp, it prompts the question:

16) How Will The Cowboys Juggle Their Tight Ends?

Rob Phillips: Dalton Schultz definitely earned a spot in the rotation last year while Blake Jarwin was injured, so it'll be interesting to see how those snaps are split with Jarwin returning. According to Sharp Football Stats, the Cowboys played two-tight-end sets on 21% of the snaps in 2020 and 18% in 2019, when Jarwin and Schultz rotated with Jason Witten. That's not a huge diet of 12 personnel – overwhelmingly and understandably, the offense mostly features three wide receivers (71% in 2020) – but it has been part of Kellen Moore's system. The club also signed Jeremy Sprinkle to replace Blake Bell as a proven blocker in the run game.

Jonny Auping: I think that, in all likelihood, Blake Jarwin gets considerably more snaps than Dalton Schultz and Schultz becomes something of an odd man out this season. I know a lot of smart people disagree with me, and I certainly think Schultz proved that he deserves the coaching staff trying to figure out how to get him on the field, but that's easier said than done. The Cowboys have the envious problem of too many playmakers. Plenty of teams have success with two-tight end sets, but I don't know that Schultz is a more important weapon than who would be taken off the field for him. If you assume that Jarwin is on the field, then you have to tell me which of CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott shouldn't be out there so that Shultz can be on the field. And they're already trying to find creative ways to get Tony Pollard on the field. Obviously, this all banks on Jarwin being ready to handle a full workload, and either way Schultz will be worked into the rotation. I'm sure we'll see them both on the field at times, I just wouldn't expect heavy doses of it.

Mickey Spagnola: Much of this will depend on how far along prospective starter Blake Jarwin is rehabbing his torn ACL suffered in last year's season opener. Jarwin spent the entire offseason continuing his rehab following surgery, but if healthy, and appears he will be ready for the start of training camp, and even though last year's starter Dalton Schultz came out of his shell, catching 63 passes for 615 yards and four touchdowns in his place, Jarwin can do a better job stretching the field in the passing game. But Schultz certainly gives the Cowboys a one-two punch at the tight end position after proving a capable receiver and decent blocker last year, meaning defenses can't assume Jarwin is the receiver and Schultz is the blocker. He also improved taking on the H-back role last year.

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